Maryland’s defense keeps team close during scoring drought

Maryland women's soccer

By Bryan Jones

The Maryland women’s soccer team is in a scoring drought, but the defense has stepped up to keep the team competitive.

The Terps have not scored since Oct. 1, when the Terps lost 3-1 to Minnesota. It has since gone 446 minutes without a goal.

The Terps lost two of their top playmakers to injury earlier this season. Both Mikayla Dayes and Chelsea Jackson had three goals before getting hurt in September, and the Terps have not been able to step up in their absence.

“We have a lot of people not comfortable playing up front, they are doing the best that they can,” said head coach Ray Leone.

The struggles are due to a lack of playmakers and the difficulty of the Big Ten schedule. Maryland is 1-7-1 in conference play and five of its losses have come to teams that are currently ranked in the top 50 by NCAA women’s soccer RPI.

Despite a rough stretch, when the Terps were outscored 10-1 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, the defense has managed to keep Maryland within striking distance.

Julie New and Jarena Harmon believe that communication and connecting back passes are a way that the defense can try to help the offense get going. The defenders can try to set up the midfielders where they want the ball.

“I think defensively teams are doing well, we’re just working on connecting the ball at the top,” Harmon said. ”If we do that better and more decisive then we will be able to put a few in.”

The defenders also admitted it is important for the entire team to communicate with each other instead of just the back four.

“We are defending as a full team,” Harmon said.

Leone has stressed all season of how the team benefits from its depth. While Leone has found it difficult to patch up the front, numerous players have stepped up on the back line.

“At least we have people who have played in the back before, even if they are not normally a back,” said Leone.

Along with the defense, goalie Rachel Egyed has been forced to step up.

The senior split time with Erin Seppi during a 4-0 loss against Iowa on Oct. 8. Egyed allowed three goals in 45 minutes against the Hawkeyes, but responded by keeping the Terps within striking distance of No. 17 Ohio State during the next game. She followed that up by holding No. 13 Penn State scoreless through regulation on Oct. 15.

“We’ve got to close up the gap and try to get a shutout every once in awhile,” said Leone.

Egyed has had four shutouts this season, the last coming Sept. 22 against Illinois.

The defense will attempt to finish the season strong with only two games remaining in the regular season.

“We are back there to make sure our offense has a chance,” New said.

The Terps face Michigan State on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Ludwig Field.